Basketball Tigers Host Florida Tuesday at Maravich Center

6 P.M. Start Time; Student Point Night; Tickets at LSUTix.net

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Basketball Tigers Host Florida Tuesday at Maravich Center

BATON ROUGE – Off two impressive road wins at Texas A&M and Ole Miss, the LSU men’s basketball team returns to the home court of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for an important Southeastern Conference contest with Florida on Tuesday night.

The Tigers are 13-4 and 5-0 in the league, while Florida is in a tie for second with Kentucky at 4-1 (12-5 overall). 

The game is set to tip off just after 6 p.m. on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media flagship affiliate Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) with the “voice” of the Tigers Chris Blair and former Coach John Brady, while Dave Neal and Daymeon Fishback will call the telecast on the SEC Network.

Tickets are available all day Tuesday at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and online at LSUTix.net. Tickets will go on sale at the upper concourse windows of the Maravich Center at 4:30 p.m.

Student get in free with a valid ID and it is a Student Point Night game. The first 500 students will also be able to receive free food from Raising Cane’s.

LSU won 89-85 in overtime at Texas A&M and 80-76 at Ole Miss to run their league road winning streak to 12 games and their overall present win streak to six games. Florida won both its games last week at home, 71-55 over Ole Miss and took down Auburn by a score of 69-47. 

The Tigers got a good game off the bench from Marlon Taylor in the Ole Miss win as he has his best game since returning from foot surgery with 13 points in 32 minutes. LSU continues to go with its starting lineup of Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays at guards with Emmitt Williams, Darius Days and Trendon Watford at forwards. 

LSU has used this lineup in 14-of-its-17 games this year.

Mays is averaging 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists while Williams is at 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. Watford is at 12.6 points and 6.9 rebounds, while Days is at 11.9 points and a team best 8.1 rebounds. Smart is at 11.7 points and 4.6 assists a contest. 

Kerry Blackshear leads Florida at 14.8 points a game (8.9 rebounds), while Keyontae Johnson is at 12.5 points. Andrew Nembhard is at 10.8 points and Noah Lock at 10.2.

This will be the Tigers only league game this week as they play at Texas on Saturday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge (1 p.m.). LSU after the Florida game returns home for games against Alabama (Jan. 29) and Florida (Feb. 1). 
Coach Will Wade met with the media on Monday and here were some of his comments:

Head Coach Will Wade

Opening statement…
“Big game (Tuesday). Obviously we’re stepping up in weight class playing Florida. They’re playing extremely, extremely well coming off one of their better outings – maybe their best outing of the year (69-47 win over then No. 4 Auburn).I haven’t watched all of their games, but to do what they did to Auburn, especially defensively, and to be able to score like they did on Auburn – they were preseason Top-10 in the country for a reason. They’re an excellent, excellent team.

“Our games with them have always been very, very good. Two of them last year went to overtime. All three were very, very close games. This is going to be one of those games where all the details matter. All the little things matter. We’ve got to go a very good job of honing in on the little things and handling the details if we want to give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

On what Florida has done to improve their consistency from the beginning of the season…
“I think everyone was inconsistent. We were inconsistent. Everybody was inconsistent. It’s tough. What Coach (Mike) White’s done – he’s done a heck of a job. You look at their roster – they have (Kerry) Blackshear starting who’s a fifth year kid who just came over from Virginia Tech. They’re staring Omar Payne now who’s a big time, big time player and a great, great kid. They’re starting two bigger guys. (Scottie) Lewis the freshman is a tremendous, tremendous talent, but it takes some time to adjust. Obviously they have (Andrew) Nembhard back and (Noah) Locke and (Keyontae) Johnson and some of those guys, but they had a lot of new pieces (Ques) Glover the freshman point guard has played well for them. It’s tough when you’ve got new pieces and to learn a different offensive system, defensive system. I think they’ve just grown as the year’s gone on. They’ve become more connected, more together. I think the ball moves a lot better for them on offense. They’ve gone back to running some of the same things that they ran last year. I think maybe early in the year – I don’t want to coach his team – but I think he probably gave them a little more freedom than he’s giving them now … He’s making sure the right guys get the shots and he’s running stuff that he’s comfortable with. They’re a very good team. They’re at the top of our league for a reason.”

On Marlon Taylor’s performance against Ole Miss…
“Well, I thought Marlon played the way he’s capable of playing. I think he was a lot more locked in. He was a lot more focused going into the game. I think he knew we needed him to play well and, quite frankly, we need him to play well for the next two and a half months – for as long as we keep playing. We need him to play extremely, extremely well. I think he understood what was at stake and that he was going to have a larger role than he had been having. Part of it is too, he’s just healthy and fresh. Shawn Eddy has done a tremendous job as our athletic trainer. He’s done a phenomenal job keeping him healthy. Marlon’s getting an hour, two hours of treatment every day just to put himself in a position to practice or to work out and then be able to play in games. I think a lot of it – he was healthy, he was fresh. Like I always say, he made two or three plays where he’s the only one on the court that can make them. Obviously the offensive rebound he made at the end and got fouled. Even more important than that, they were in their 1-3-1 and we just kind of threw it up to him on the sideline. Against anybody else, that pass is out of bounds. He leaps up and catches it, skips it back to Skylar, they gamble for a steal on the skip pass and Skylar drives it in and lays it in and we’re up five. Those are huge game winning plays that Marlon makes.”

On shooting 8-21 from beyond the arc against Ole Miss…
“I think anytime you can make threes it open things up, but that’s not really our strength. I think we’re like 230th-231st in the country in the amount of points we hit from three. That’s not really our deal. We try to be consistent pounding the paint, drawing fouls and making things happen around the rim. Certainly teams are going to try to force us to shoot threes. I’m sure Florida is going to force us to shoot threes. We’ve got to do a good job of taking the right threes. We’re actually a pretty good shooting team – a very good shooting team – when we shoot the right type of three. When we shoot inside-out threes, penetrate and pinch threes. When we shoot them off the bounce or shoot them off of one pass and it’s just around the perimeter, we don’t make many – as most teams in college basketball don’t. We’ve just got to be a little bit sharper and smarter about which threes we take … You know, if you just shoot it in the paint, you’ve got a lot better chance to offensive rebound and it helps with a lot of better things that can happen, irregardless of whether you make it or not. We need to shoot better shots.”

On the importance to keep hitting free-throws at a high rate…
“Well we’ve just got to stick to our routines and keep working daily. That’s something that we spend quite a bit of time on.  Driving in there, getting fouled and being able to pay it off when we get fouled.  You look at the game against Florida that we lost here last year; we shot it terribly from the free throw line. We gave up seven points on the baseline out of bounds, little stuff like that when you play the heavy weights in the conference like Florida, that’s the difference in the games is how well you shoot it from the free throw line.  Can you win baseline and sideline out of bounds? Can you get a few loose balls? Can you take a charge? Those are the sort of thing that become difference makers. We’ve got to work at all of that, but part of our identity offensively is driving in there and getting to the free throw line.  We’ve got to be able to pay it off when we make them foul us and get to the line.”

On the most important thing Florida does…
“Well they’re a really balanced team. They have the number one offense in the conference right now through five conference games.  They’ve got the best offence in the conference.  They’re shooting the ball well. They’re shooting 38-percent from three in the league. They’ve got a tremendous big kid, and (Kerry) Blackshear and Omar Payne played really well.  He had a double-double, 19 and 11 or 19 and 12 against Auburn, did a tremendous job cleaning up the glass. (Noah) Locke hitting threes and (Scottie) Lewis coming on and (Keyontae) Johnson a kid who they started most of the year last year has been coming off the bench for them and giving them great minutes. They’re very dangerous offensively just because they have a lot of weapons and they screen well, they cut hard, they move, they’ve got good schemes.  Defensively they’ve been doing a lot of switching lately in conference. They switched almost everything against Auburn and Auburn was very stagnant. They went to switching more against Alabama as the game went on. They played almost every defense against Missouri and some of their other games.  They’re well coached, well-schooled, well trained. They’re a very good team both offensively and defensively and they have a great a balance on both ends of the court.”

On how to attack Florida…
“You’ve got to pick your poison. You’ve got to figure out who you think you can stop.  Do you have a one on one match up you think you can win anywhere defensively?  Do you have a one on one match up or match ups you can win anywhere offensively and how can you keep the ball moving and create seams for your guys to drive the ball against their switches if they end up pushing ball screens like they did against us last year.  How can we react and get the ball to the second side quicker?  One thing about them is that they do an excellent job – they’re going to find a weak spot where you haven’t prepared for.  You’ve got to prepare for three of four different ball screen coverages. You’ve got to prepare for a bunch of different baseline out of bounds stuff that they run. Like I said, they hammered that on us last year here.  You’ve got to prepare for all their weapons on offense.  He’s going to spend the first ten to twelve minutes of the game feeling out where is the weak spot where you’re a little bit exposed, where you haven’t been as prepared as maybe you need to be.  That’s what we are trying to do in the next 24 hours, 36 hours before the game is shoring up the weak spots to make sure that we don’t leave any of ourselves exposed and that we’re prepared for what they’re going to throw at us.”

On the energy Aundre Hyatt brings to the team when he’s on the court…
“He’s a two-way player; he plays both ends of the floor.  He obviously came in as a big time offensive weapon, being able to shoot the ball and he’s shooting the ball a lot better.  He’s shooting it with confidence, for him to be able to make that three, we haven’t been able to have a guy make a three of the screen like that on the side out of bounds play in a long time.  We didn’t even screen very well on the play and he still got it off and made it.  To be able to shoot the catch like that, it’s very difficult to shoot the turn and he can do that.  We hadn’t been able to get him going yet but he’s done that and he gives our guys confidence.  Defensively, he covers up a lot of mistakes; he’s always in the right place.  He helped over and Ole Miss bounced it off the chest, (KJ) Buffen (of Ole Miss) did it a couple times, he’s always in the right spot.  We’re just a lot better team when he’s out there and the other thing is he’s brought us is he’s big and he’s a lot more physical and tough than I probably gave him credit for in the preseason.  He’s found a way to make plays. When he’s out there the scoreboard usually moves in a good direction for us whether or not he’s hitting shot. Other teams tend not to score as much.  The ball moves on offense, he doesn’t hold the ball, if he doesn’t have a shot or a quick drive he’s going to pass it and cut or pass it and move and find the open spot.  

“He’s a real cerebral player, he’s a very good player and you forget he’s only a freshman.  He’s a redshirt freshman. He’s coming off a couple knee injuries and we didn’t even know if he was going to play this year.  He’s been absolutely huge for us. Hopefully in a perfect world we can keep him playing at a high level and continue to get him 18-20 minutes a game and him continue to grow and keep Marlon (Taylor) playing at a very high level and when you add (Charles) Manning back in a couple weeks, now you’ve got some real depth. We’ve got a real team.  So that’s the hope, can we keep Hyatt playing well and keep Marlon playing well and then be able to add Charles back and we’ve got a really good eight, nine-man rotation.  You can throw (James) Bishop or (Courtese) Cooper and Marshall (Graves) in there certainly when we need to.  That’s what we’re hopefully building towards as we come down the stretch.”

On Javonte Smart’s recent play …
“He’s got to keep playing at a high level.  When Javonte (Smart) plays well, at a high level like he’s been playing we are a much better team.  He’s quicker, been making really good decisions for us and he really helps our team out.  Another area he’s really improved in is defensively.  He did a very good job on Isaiah Joe, we put him on (Breein) Tyree for a little bit but Marlon (Taylor) did a phenomenal job on Tyree.  He was the only hope we had of slowing of slowing Tyree down.  Javonte has improved on both ends of the floor and when he plays well our team is going to be better.”

On handling the Javonte Smart’s emotions throughout the game …
“We have to cut that out, we can’t have that, and we almost lost the game because of those two free throws. They were critical so we have to be able to cut that out and let our play do the talking. He’s an emotional player; I tell him all of the time that I’d rather tell him whoa than go.  I’d rather reel him back in than have to stir him and give him a little pop.  That’s one thing I love about Javonte (Smart) and the one thing I love about the rest of those guys.  They are emotional, they’re into it, and they want to win.” 

On Darius Day’s foul trouble …
“We looked at the film and we are working on it with him.  He’s frustrated and should be frustrated but we will keep working through it and I think he will be fine.  It hadn’t really crept up until the last few games so we will continue to work with him and watch film to show him some areas that he needs to pick his battles a little bit wiser.  Is crashing this time worth the opportunity cost of picking up a foul?  We made him watch film yesterday for a long time together one on one about that and some other things.  As he always does, he will respond well.”